I’m surprised and a little shocked at how often I hear and read about feelings of loneliness after birth. Before I had a baby, I never even considered loneliness to be an issue. Exhaustion, yes. Pain, yes. Not being able to go to the toilet on your own, yes (oh yes!). My mamma friends had told me all about these things. But nobody talked about being lonely. I’d hoped I would feel whole, complete and happy to finally have the baby I’d been longing for for so long. When baby came, I ended up feeling all of this – as expected – including the loneliness – quite unexpectedly.
Why did I feel lonely? I was not just about living in a city where I didn’t have many friends. It wasn’t only about the physical companionship. After all, I had my loving partner who came home in the evening and helped out as much as possible. I called or skyped my mum and friends too. But still, it was often very hard to say goodbye to my husband in the morning, knowing that there was a long and exhausting day ahead of me. To combat these lonely feelings, I binge-watched series that made my heart feel warm and cozy and made me cry – something I apparently needed to do (I can highly recommend period dramas such as BBC’s Love and War, Poldark or Call the Midwife – warning: you’ll cry your eyes out!).
Some women take more drastic actions to cope with the loneliness as a new mum. Stephanie Quitterer, 34, from Prenzlauerberg decided to start an interesting experiment during her Elternzeit. Every day, she’d bake a cake (Marmerkuchen, of course!) and randomly started ringing doorbells in her neighbourhood in the hope she was allowed in to offer her unassuming neighbours a piece of her cake. She rang 2893 doorbells in total! Most often people didn’t open their doors or told her to go away. In fact, Stephanie ended up eating the first 30 cakes she baked on her own (her husband was on a no-sugar diet, can you believe it?). But she didn’t give up. Her perseverance paid off in the end: once she managed to step inside people’s houses she also got a peek view into their lives. These strangers told her the most extraordinary stories about their lives. She wrote down these encounters in her book “Hausbesuche. Wie ich mit 200 Kuchen meine Nachbarschaft eroberte”.
I admire Stephanie for challenging her loneliness in such a remarkable way. Big cities are so vibrant and lively but very lonely too. On one of her solitary walks with the pram she calculated that there were 5500 people living in her street. 5500 living souls that she didn’t know but that were so close-by! This triggered her to start her ‘Kuchendates’. Wonderful, isn’t it?
If you don’t feel up for such a big challenge as Stephanie’s, there are numerous other ways to cope with loneliness with a baby or toddler. It’s important to take the loneliness seriously. Don’t be ashamed about it. You don’t have to be super happy or on cloud number 9 the whole time. Of course you love your baby, but it’s also very hard work. My top tip: get involved in social media. It helps you to connect to others who are going through the same or have experienced it already and can give advice. Simply put: it gives you a support network (and research agrees it is beneficial). Perhaps this even leads to meeting people offline – as in: the actual world! That is how Emilie and I, the founders of SuperMamas Berlin, met.
There is now an new way to fight loneliness as a new mum in Berlin: join SuperMamas!
We bring new mums in touch with more ‘experienced’ mums who live in the same neighborhood. We connect HelpingMamas, those who bring the gift of food, with BubbleMamas, those we deserve a little bit of pampering. Our aim is not just to provide young mothers with healthy cooked meals at a time in their lives when they need it the most. It is bigger than that: we want to connect people. We want to try to reduce this emotional distance that exists in big cities such as Berlin.
You can have a peek of what we do on our Facebook page.